If you’re reading this, the beginning of my journey is not unusual to the unfortunate storyline we all share.
It was a Saturday in 2013. I was working on a motorcycle in my friend’s garage when I received a phone call from my doctor telling me the results were in and I had prostate cancer. I asked how long, and he said, reluctantly, if I didn’t get started on treatment right away, then I had about six months.
I was 59 years old. I had a family. I had a life. I loved riding and working on motorcycles. Before retiring, I worked as a tool designer, where I designed full-blown machines and managed large production lines. I was also a pretty fit and healthy guy. However, the test was accurate, and I had cancer.
My doctor started me on pills and injections that suppressed testosterone, and radiation therapy. My PSA levels dropped after my first round of treatment, so we continued this intermittent approach to checking my levels and adjusting my medication. I got really lucky, and my six-month prognosis turned into seven years. I never went into remission, but my PSA levels did go down.
Even though my levels were good, I continued to read about new medical developments, and that’s how I learned about scans being useful tools for prostate cancer patients. Sure, I was having blood work regularly, but I didn’t know anything about the size or location of the cancer. I brought the idea of a scan to my doctor, but since my PSA levels were fine, we kept plugging away with what we were doing.
Then last year, my PSA levels spiked. My wife and I met with my doctor who said we would need to change my treatment to something more aggressive. We asked if there were any other options, and he mentioned that it could be a good time for a scan, and that maybe information gathered from nuclear imaging could help us come up with another treatment plan.
I am on Medicare, which covers some nuclear imaging, and a hospital near me was set up to do a variety of scans, so that made the process easy. On the day of the scan, the whole process took about an hour and a half. I had an injection, and then I went into the machine for about 20 minutes.
Afterwards, my doctor had me come into his office to see the results. He brought up this color image on his computer screen, and pointed to this small red spot, which represented cancer, on the left side of my groin area. It was the size of a penny.
Twenty-one days later, I went in for radiation and using the results from the scan, the doctors targeted that spot. In one month, my PSA levels dropped a little, and then a month later, a little more, and so on. Now I’m at 1.56 from 11.27 before the scan. I’m still actively monitoring my levels regularly without the need for any medications at this time.
Many of our stories might start the same—with shocking news delivered on a phone call or in person, but as individual patients, our cancers are all very different and impact our lives and bodies differently.
As I mentioned, I was a tool designer, so I know that tools make our lives easier. To me, scans are tools for those of us with recurrent prostate cancer. They help you find out how you’re doing and add information to your medical records, so you and your doctor can design a treatment plan that’s right for you.